Sunday Mail Reporter
Government has set in motion a comprehensive plan to promote start-ups in the agriculture sector and drive rural industrialisation through value addition of agricultural produce, among interventions to unlock inherent value in the sector, President Mnangagwa has said.
The plan, which is pivoted on devolution, involves nurturing agro-processing start-up enterprises in rural areas through financial and technological support via venture capital funding and Government agencies.
President Mnangagwa has already set up a high-level taskforce spanning several ministries that is set to design and implement the strategic interventions that are envisaged to swiftly turn small farming enterprises into self-contained agro-processing businesses.
Writing in his weekly column for The Sunday Mail, the President said the programme would facilitate the seamless entry of more local players into sectors controlled by monopolistic conglomerates.
Government will also support development of agriculture value chains in all rural provinces.
“With the Land Reform Programme, agriculture has become a key sector for capital formation for most people and families,” he said.
“And because of the many value chains emerging from it, this is one sector holding many possibilities for numerous start-ups.
“It is thus more than a mere source of raw materials; it is itself a site of significant capital formation, much of it investible.
“There is thus a yawning gap in our agricultural ecosystem, a gap we now have to plug.”
Farmers, said the President, must now exit their traditional comfort zone of being producers of primary products and start producing finished goods.
He said Zimbabwe must draw lessons from China, whose interventions have helped lift millions from poverty through facilitating on-farm rural industrialisation.
“We have taken a conscious decision as Government to qualitatively transform our countryside, principally our rural areas, where the majority of our people live.
“This is what the Policy of Devolution is about: namely to trigger and predicate economic activity in each province on resources and competitive edge which each province wields.
“We have gone further.
“We have intimated another sub-policy to buttress the main Devolution Policy.
“This is rural industrialisation. By rural industrialisation, we simply mean starting or launching industrial activity in rural areas, based on factor endowments in each rural space.
“Those endowments become the definers and drivers of the industrial activity we envisage in any one area.”
He said among the many objectives of the programme was to stem rural-urban migration.
Government, he added, has already laid the preparatory groundwork for the transformation through, among many other things, establishing tertiary institutions, including vocational training centres in rural areas and intensifying the rural electrification programme.
Growth points have also been established and are gradually transforming into sprawling semi-urban settlements.
“We must now show readiness to fully support investments aimed at breaking monopolistic tendencies in this economy.
“That means growing many producers of key commodities; that means multiplying actors in any one sector and sub-sector, for genuine competition which benefits the consumer.
“Therein comes our farmers, young entrepreneurs and others already in business who might want to diversify their portfolios …
“Before long, we should see wisps of industrial smoke in the countryside, including on farms where raw materials are produced.”
Implementation of the programme involves several ministries and Government agencies.
“First, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce must speedily work together with all Ministers of State, ZIDA (Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency) and ZimTrade to map value chains province by province for consideration by Government as a matter of urgency.
“Second, preferably in the Mid-Term Budget Review, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development must work on operationalising the much-stalled Sovereign Wealth Fund, setting up Venture Capital Fund and, in consultation with Ministries of Industry and Commerce and that of Labour and Social Welfare, advise Government on instruments and agencies already in place which require refocusing and realignment in readiness for funding and implementation of rural industrialisation.”
He also said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and related agencies, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development had to develop incentives for both local and foreign investors who elect to invest in value chains for rural areas, and in sectors manufacturing basic commodities to bring about the much-needed competition.
Further, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development is expected to work with both the Ministries of Finance and Industry to locate small and medium enterprises within mapped rural value chains and strategic areas manufacturing basics for the national market.
Treasury has been directed to facilitate the acquisition of capital goods required for mapped value chains, using resources from the Venture Capital Fund and other instruments, while the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development has to conduct skills needs analyses to underpin mapped value chains for training, technology development through innovation hubs, as well as the identification of supply markets for appropriate machinery to power rural industrialisation.
The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development is expected to participate in all these activity areas, including triggering agricultural activities which support mapped value chains.
Partnerships that empower Zimbabweans, principally farmers, youths, graduates and women are also being encouraged.
See also Analysis Page 3